"We get a depiction of young brown and black people in the media that sets us up for failure. Our kids are getting ideals that they can never live up to instead of having an accessible form of expression that they can use to find out who they are... these cultural forms of expression are so necessary for us to have for ourselves as a community that it is a travesty to say the least what these corporations have done with the platform for our culture. So that's what Hip Hop For Change is bringing back."
This past 4th of July I had the pleasure of attending Hip Hop For Change’s 2nd Annual Independent Hip Hop Festival: Women’s Empowerment Day where I caught performances Ryan Nicole and Breathless AKA Honey B. Though I must admit I have enjoyed my fair share of "luxury rap", it was refreshing to see artists spreading messages about social and political issues affecting the community instead of the usual misogynistic, materialistic values peddled on the radio. Khafre Jay, the Founder and Executive Director of Hip Hop For Change, has been rapping in the Bay area for about 16 years and knows firsthand how difficult it can be "for a political/social justice artist... to get paid, get supported. Definitely not getting on the radio," he says, "Because right now our cultural platform's been consolidated by big corporations who bring fake gangster rappers out here who resonate with communities that aren't ours." From the Hip Hop For Change website:
Corporate stereotypes of Hip Hop culture--and by extension, the creators and participants of that culture--dehumanize us, and affect the way we are perceived. There is a direct relationship between this dehumanization and the criminalization of people of color, police brutality, and public acceptance of those phenomena. Most people learn about cultures they are unfamiliar with through the media, internalizing narratives that place us as second-class citizens.
In addition, the corporate co-optation of Hip Hop culture has created a situation where our community’s platform of self-expression has been eclipsed and replaced with a limited, insulting narrative that affects our understanding of what our Hip Hop is, and what Hip Hop can be. Our culture has been stolen, repackaged, and sold back to us; this limits our cultural efficacy, as well as our ability, freedom, and initiative to talk about and organize around issues that affect our community. Our children have grown to become consumers of a bastardized version of Hip Hop that is devoid of its roots, rather than creators of their own self-expression.
Hip Hop For Change "seeks to address these injustices of representation through education, community building, and the creation of a platform for people who identify with Hip Hop culture to express their true voices, selves, and culture. We create a space that emphasizes and encourages the root values of Hip Hop culture: peace, love, unity, and having fun."
Check out my interview with Khafre above and for more information on this wonderful organization or to make a donation, check out hiphopforchange.org.